“You will not be able to put any weight on your foot for at least 12 weeks,” said my orthopedic doctor as he looked at the x-rays showing my fractured tibia. What? His words hit me like a bomb. That cannot be possible, I thought. I have trainings to deliver, speeches to give, business trips planned, and weekly in-person coaching sessions to attend. My next thoughts turned to my children and their basketball and soccer commitments, as well as to our regular life schedule. How could we possibly manage all of that with me unable to walk or drive? I confess that even as self-aware as I have grown to be, this temporary limitation and the pain in my foot got the best of me during those first days after my injury. Now looking back, I recognize that even though I was experiencing some of the worst pain I have ever felt and I needed more help than ever in my life, I was not considering my own needs first. Instead, my frustration was based on what I was not going to be able to do to satisfy others. Over the last five weeks, it has become obvious to me that work was still occupying a high priority in my life, just second to family, and that I needed to again make another adjustment to the way my life was going.
For several years I’ve been helping people (including myself) achieve their greatest potential, and the one thing that stands out without a doubt is that we can’t reach our highest levels without taking care of ourselves first. Many of us spend so much time focused on our jobs and doing things for others that satisfying everyone else’s needs becomes our main concern. On top of that, with our never-ending lists of to-dos and responsibilities, we even feel guilty and selfish when we do put our own needs first.
Prior to my injury, I really thought that I was in balance because my life was a reflection of my priorities; I had successfully divided my time between my family, my business, my clients, my friends, and certainly my self-development. What I did not realize was that all the time dedicated to myself was invested in self-growth (learning, reading, and studying), but not self-care. So the universe intervened and I was literally forced to sit down and take the time to think, reflect and – most importantly – invest in myself. I had to remove everything I could from my calendar to allow myself the necessary time to heal. And, you know what? To my own great dismay, the world did not end because I couldn’t attend board meetings, events, trips, conferences, and the like. I was forced to slow down to think about what was really important and worth dedicating my time to. These challenges life throws our way are actually opportunities, giving us time to reflect on areas where we may be misaligned, seeing our biggest truths rise to the surface, and then deciding on the steps we must take to change.
If you are going through a life challenge and you feel the need to get in alignment, do yourself a favor and make time for yourself. Incorporate some or all of the following into your routine to begin your inward journey and understand how to best take care of yourself:
• Meditate: Meditation is a mind-body practice that brings about a deeper understanding of life while calming and reducing stress. Just find a technique that works best for you (guided meditation, mantra meditation, walking meditation, or mindful meditation).
• Exercise: Exercise helps to boost endorphins and reduce stress. It helps s us feel good and increases our energy.
• Remember to breathe: Take three slow deep breaths several times a day to help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. As you feel yourself calming down, connect-in and ask yourself, what do you need to do for yourself right now?
• Find a “Zen Zone”: Find a calming space where you can disappear for a few minutes for self-reflection. It could be in your favorite coffee shop, a place of worship, or even your favorite room in your house.
• Spend time with nature: Submerse in the beautiful energy nature offers to us at no cost to dissipate any tension. Just head outside to your own back yard, a park, or a bench in front of a pond or lake. One thing I like to do is walk on grass with my bare feet (of course, most of us can’t do that now in the wintertime!).
• Keep track of your thoughts: Putting your emotions on paper can force you to think things through until you understand them completely. It can also be a way to bring your core truths to the surface.
• Pamper yourself with a massage: This is a wonderful way to free yourself of tension, tune-in with your body and relax yourself so you are ready for self-reflection. If you don’t have time for a day spa, try treating yourself to a massage or try acupressure to help release tension and balance the circulation of fluids.
• Immerse in an activity that takes your mind off things: Use your down time to do an activity that you love so much that it takes your mind off things. This could be painting, coloring, doing crossword puzzles, dancing, listening to music, kneading, jewelry -making, or any other activity that sucks you in so much that it makes you lose track of time.
It is only during introspection that you’ll realize things you had probably never even considered about yourself and discover what your needs truly are.
To your success!